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Sermons & Study Guides

Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds Pt. 7 - (Creeds and the Matter to be Confessed 4 — Matters of Life Necessary for Decency and Order)

James Dodson

Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds

(Creeds and the Matter to be Confessed 4—Matters of Life Necessary for Decency and Order)


Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:40)

Question.—What are matters of decency and order, and from whence do they arise?

Answer.—Paul commands the church to observe decency, εὐσχημόνως, in its matters of government and worship, 1 Cor. 14:40.  Matters of decency refer to those constitutions pertaining to the decorum of Christians within, Rom. 13:13; and with respect to those who are without, cf. 1 Thess. 4:12 with 1 Cor. 14:23.  Decorum is that design to make presentable or comely, 1 Cor. 12:23.

Decorum, or decency, speaks to what is proper and seemly in the exercises of religious devotion, and it reflects a modesty rooted in nature, 1 Chron. 16:29.  For example: Paul would not have profane usages mixed with those of the Lord’s supper, 1 Cor. 11:21, 22; nor would he have women go abroad in public with their heads uncovered, 1 Cor. 11:5; it is decorum rooted in nature that men bow the knee in reverencing, Rom. 11:4; or that men pray with uncovered heads, 1 Cor. 11:4; that the sacraments be administered with care, as becomes acts of reverence, 1 Cor. 11:25, 26; that we use decency in the burial of the dead, Acts 8:2; 9:37; etc.

Matters of order refer to those constitutions necessary to all human society for the maintenance of peace and concord and is a demonstration of a steadfastness of the faith, Col. 2:5.  The word translated stedfastness, στερέωμα, refers to firmness of commitment and it used in the LXX to describe the natural order of the cosmos, Gen. 1:6, 7.  The word translated order, τάξιν, is used to describe both an arrangement necessary for functioning, Heb. 7:11; as well as that placement of things such that there is a proper succession, Luke 1:8.  Paul’s use, in Colossians 2:5, points to a proper procedure which is rooted in and makes visible that firmament of faith in Christ, Heb. 6:19.  The end result of which is that the it informs both rites and ceremonies, 2 Chron. 29:35; as well as those matters pertaining to the discipline and peace of the church, 1 Cor. 11:34.

Order is that arrangement of things so that all confusion and dissension is quelled, 1 Cor. 14:33; all obstinacy and commotion is silenced, Phil. 3:15; all uncivilized behavior is removed, 1 Cor. 14:11.  For example, that times need to be set, or appointed, for public worship, Acts 2:42; that quiet need be observed at the public preaching, Luke 4:20; that songs be chosen that all might sing together, Matt. 26:30; that days be fixed for sacramental observances, Acts 20:7; that women are forbidden to teach in the churches, 1 Cor. 14:34; for the maintenance of catechizing, Gal. 6:6; for the administering of church censures and excommunication, 1 Cor. 5:4; that times be appointed for fasting, Est. 9:31; etc.

Now, we know that these things all arise from either the light of nature, 1 Cor. 11:13, 14; or the concerns of Christian prudence, 1 Cor. 14:26.  All of these matters pertaining to decency and order are to be submissive to the general rules of the Word of God, 1 Cor. 14:30-32; Phil. 2:3.

Question.—What purpose does it serve to have matters of decency and order established?

Answer.—These matters of decency and order need to be established, Tit. 1:5; so that there is both peace, 2 Thess. 3:16; and uniformity found throughout the churches of Christ, 1 Cor. 4:17.  After all, it is contrary to the practice of the churches to be contentious, 1 Cor. 11:16.

Establishing rules of decency and order is necessary to avoid all appearance of partiality in a demonstration of the wisdom from above, Jas. 3:17, 18.  It is the practical avoidance of occasions for bringing divisions into the body, 1 Cor. 11:18.  It teaches all to submit to one another in love, Eph. 4:2; it teaches all to do so also for the fear, or reverencing, of God, Eph. 5:21; and it teaches the younger to submit to the elder, 1 Pet. 5:5; and the spiritual descendants to submit to their spiritual forefathers, Prov. 30:11, 12.

Question.—Do matters of decorum and order bind the conscience?

Answer.—To the extent that matters of decorum are rooted in nature (and all are to some extent), they commend themselves to men’s consciences, 1 Cor. 11:13.  To the extent that they reflect particular usages and customs of men, they do not bind the conscience, John 18:39.  If a matter of decorum, though rooted in nature, and though it be not inherently sinful, yet if it hinders any prescribed duty or necessity, it behooves us to follow God rather than man, as conscience itself witnesseth, Acts 4:19.

Likewise, in matters of order, none have a right to make a conscientious observance of order as required where the Lord has not made one, Col. 2:16, 20-23.  So Paul followed what was a matter of order with respect to Timothy, when none made it a matter of conscience, Acts 16:3; yet, in the case of Titus, Paul refused when men made it a matter of conscience, Gal. 2:3.

Question.—What place do matters of decorum and order have in our confession-alism?

Answer.—There is none who can bind the conscience in those things which God has made free, 1 Tim. 4:2, 3.

Yet, a particular church may bind both the practice, 1 Cor. 10:14, 15; as well as the judgment, 1 Cor. 1:10; in matters of decorum and order, 1 Cor. 14:40.

Furthermore, even in those things which the Lord has left free, if they, by reason of association, 2 Kings 18:4; or misuse by a prevailing society or corrupt church usage, become symbolized with sin or error, they ought to be disowned and testified against by the constitutions of the church, Acts 15:20, 28, 29.  These constitutions, duly made, with respect to light of nature and prudence, are made binding on a particular church, Acts 16:4.